BSU vs UNLV women's basketball

Boise State forward A'Shanti Coleman (42) launches a shot against UNLV during a game Monday at ExtraMile Arena.

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BOISE — Riley Lupfer says she likes to poke fun at A'Shanti Coleman's shot selection.

Coleman, a senior forward for the Boise State women's basketball team, likes to take mid-range shots from just inside the 3-point line, which Lupfer likes to refer to as '2.9ers.'

“I get mad at her, I'm like 'just shoot the three'” Lupfer, Boise State's career 3-point leader, joked. “But if it goes in, it goes in and I'm fine with that.”

Coleman says she doesn't realize how close she is to the line, she just shoots what feels right in the moment.

“A lot of people say I'm usually not that far away from stepping back,” Coleman said. “But I don't realize that in the moment. Wherever my feet land, I just launch it."

Wherever Coleman has been shooting it from lately, though, they have been going in. She enters the Mountain West Tournament with three straight 20-point games. After 20-point performances against San Jose State and at New Mexico, she wrapped up the regular season by matching a career-high with 22 points last Monday against UNLV, a 81-52 win that clinched the No. 2 seed at the tournament.

During those past three games, she's made 27 of 45 from the field, a rate of 60%.

“I've definitely felt the sense of urgency,” Coleman said about her late-season performance. “But I also feel that collectively, our performance is peaking. Probably within the last month (assistant coach Heather) Sower was telling everybody our performance has been a little bit off from where we wanted it to be. When we get to the tournament, we want to be at that peak and playing at that high level.”

Boise State (21-9) will begin tournament play Monday on a five-game winning streak. The Broncos will face the winner of today's game between Air Force and Colorado State. Monday’s quarterfinal game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. MST in Las Vegas.

For Coleman, she scored above her season average in all five games during the Broncos' current winning streak. But it was a late shot in overtime during a 69-67 win against San Diego State on Feb. 15, that really helped spark her run, Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said.

“A'Shanti hit a game-winner at San Diego State to win that game for us in the last two seconds,” said Presnell. “I think it's given her a lot of confidence and since that moment, she's been just an outstanding player and very aggressive. Hopefully she'll be able to do that (in Las Vegas).”

But that doesn't mean the senior hasn't been reliant for the Broncos since transferring in from the University of Arizona following the 2015-16 season. After redshirting in 2016-17, she's shot 51.8% from the field over the past three seasons, hitting many big shots for the Broncos.

Perhaps none of those shots was bigger than the buzzer-beating putback she hit in a 62-60 win against Nevada in the 2018 Mountain West Championship game, during her first season for the Broncos.

For Coleman, she's played on two tournament championship-winning teams at a program that's won three straight. For four-year seniors Lupfer and Braydey Hodgins, Boise State is 9-0 in Mountain West Tournament games.

While Boise State has plenty of experience winning at the Mountain West Tournament, no player on any other Mountain West team has experience winning a tournament championship. Colorado State senior Myanne Hamm did play eight games for the Rams in 2016, when they won the tournament championship, but none of those games were in Las Vegas.

That experience, the Broncos hope, will give them an advantage this week.

“I think we'll go in with a cool mindset,” said Coleman. “When you go into a tournament trying to get a championship for the first time you get a lot of nerves and jitters. We've been there three times in a row and have that experience, especially playing against top dogs.”

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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